Summary: Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year B.

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The Kingdom Of God / Mark 4: 26 - 34

Intro: One summer a drought threatened to destroy the crops of the local farmers. On a hot, dry Sunday, the local pastor told his congregation, “There is nothing we can do but pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The next Sunday the Pastor was furious. From the pulpit he declared, “We can’t worship today because you do not believe.” A member of the congregation stood to respond, “Pastor, we prayed and we do believe.” Without a moment’s hesitation the pastor responded, “Then, where are your umbrellas?”

I. The gospel lesson today speaks about just that kind of faith, UMBRELLA FAITH!

A. The parable of the growing seed is found only in Mark. VSS. 26 – 29 Jesus speaks in parables about the kingdom of God and how that kingdom grows. It grows with faith.

B. The task of scattering the seed is performed by a human (anthropos) “someone” --- The seed is defined as “the word.”

C. VS. 28 “All by itself the soil produces grain . . .” (automate – from which we get the word automatic.) Literally, “without human effort.” Mark asserts that while humans are called to “sow” or to “scatter the seed,” the growth is completely up to God.

II. Jesus compares the kingdom of God to the idea of natural order. We cannot MAKE seeds grow! We can provide the right conditions, water, care etc. But we cannot MAKE the seeds grow.

A. We have a spot on our property where I have planted a variety of things: hibiscus, day lilies, tulips, wisteria, trumpet vine, and a bush. Everything I put in that space died. I watered, fertilized, weeded and cared for it all and nothing grew.

B. The kingdom of God for Jesus was not a place either on earth or in heaven. The kingdom of God of which Jesus speaks in this parable is God’s rule, God’s reign on this earth.

C. Jesus is saying that God rules his kingdom; not us! Our activity becomes constructive only when we allow God to take full charge. Umbrella faith is a faith that believes God is in control.

III. VS. 30 – 34 tell that parable of the mustard seed which is also found in Mt. 13: 31-32 and Lk. 13: 18 – 19.

A. The parable invites us to imagine the smallest seed sown in the earth which become a great bush. Actually, the mustard bush can grow as tall as a one-story house.

B. In Palestine at the time of Jesus, the mustard seed was a common metaphor for “the smallest thing” not only in size; but also in significance. The poor, insignificant beggar who possessed nothing could be referred to as a “mustard seed”

C. Like the mustard seed, the followers of Jesus are a bunch of ragged folk, full of doubts, full of fears, unable to comprehend much of what Jesus says or does. Yet, the reign of God bursting into history rests on these kinds of folk. It is from this scruffy, insignificant little seed from which the reign of God will be proclaimed.

Conclu: I was struggling to find a concluding story that would illustrate this sermon. I decided to take a break and got up from my desk and started walking toward the sanctuary. As I did, I started humming the hymn, “In the Bulb, There Is a Flower” which will be included in the new hymnal of the Presbyterian Church. When I got back to my desk and read the words, I realized it expresses exactly the lesson that Christ Jesus intended. It came to me as a gift from God. Listen to the words carefully. “In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise; butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody; there’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me. From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our live, eternity. In out death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

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